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Review: Scream VI (2023)

Scream VI (2023)

Directed by: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett

Premise: The survivors of 2022’s Scream have relocated to New York City. When a new Ghostface killer stalks them, the survivors are assisted by Kirby (Hayden Panettiere), a survivor of Scream 4 turned FBI agent.

What Works: Scream VI picks up the story of siblings Tara and Sam (Jenna Ortega and Melissa Barrera) and their friends after the murder spree of the previous film. This installment advances the themes of trauma and media infamy. Scream 4 had extended the series’ cultural critique to the internet, the fifth film used online fan culture, and the sixth film integrates web-based conspiracy theorizing. Lies and rumors about what actually happened at the end of the previous film have spread online, erroneously naming Sam as the killer instead of the survivor. The filmmakers dramatize the effect of living in that media bubble. Tara wants to go on with her life and refuses to be defined by the terrible thing that happened to her while Sam acts as the overprotective older sister. It’s an interesting comment on how these people cope with trauma and the way it defines their existence whether they want it to or not. As the second installment of a rebooted series, the filmmakers acknowledge their predecessors, in particular Scream 2, and they echo elements of that film successfully but on the whole Scream VI has a fresh approach to the material. Relocating from Woodsboro to New York City gives the action and the story a different feel. Scream VI is a vicious movie, more so than some of the other sequels, and it brings forward elements of a police procedural.   

What Doesn’t: The Scream series has consistently been about the relationship between media and life. That theme takes a backseat in Scream VI. The film discusses some of the rules of legacy sequels but the vocabulary of cinema and fandom aren’t worked into the drama as they were in other installments. Maybe the most decisive factor in each Scream film is the revelation of the killer and their motive. The dramatic moment in which the killer is unmasked and explains their grand design either enhances the drama or makes it quite silly. Unfortunately, the revelation scene in Scream VI is unsatisfying, perhaps the weakest of these scenes in the entire series. The previous movie had done this so well and in the process the filmmakers brought Scream into the present cultural moment; the reveal of Scream VI comes across generic and the villains are not very interesting. This movie also strains its credibility with characters getting seriously injured and then carrying on running and fighting.

Bottom Line: Scream VI is a middle-tier addition to the series. None of the sequels have ever been able to recapture the excitement and danger and wit of the original film and this one is reduced by a weak climax. But Scream VI does manage to be an entertaining and occasionally thrilling addition to the series.

Episode: #941 (March 26, 2023)